VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed a bill requiring public schools to offer in-person instruction “at least the minimum number of required instructional hours.” Advocates on both sides agree that equates to essentially full-time.
It would take effect July 1.
“So while we’re very thankful that it was signed, we feel like it could have been done a little more quickly,” stated parent Becky Hay who helps organize a Facebook page in support of allowing children to return to school in-person.
“From the beginning, this has always been about choice - even those of us who want kids in school. We’ve wanted the option for those who want be home, to be home; for those who want to be in-person, to be in-person,” Hay added. “So, this bill reinforces that that people have that choice and that the districts will offer both options.”
Hay said she and others had hoped there would be an emergency clause, allowing more students to get back in the classroom this spring.
“We had hundreds of parents calling to add the emergency clause back in which was in the original bill which is what Senator Dunnavant had originally wanted and would require it to go into effect immediately,” Hay stated.
Meanwhile, Kelly Walker, President of the Virginia Beach Education Association agrees that it is a step forward and she’s glad there is wording in the bill that protects teachers.
“So, we were very concerned that employees under the A.D.A. accommodations were protected and also, they had access to the vaccine… and that’s key,” Walker said.
Walker also explained that logistics continues to be challenging, especially during mealtimes.
“We’re just very concerned that there’s not the space available to provide lunch.”
She said the CDC guidelines recommend three feet, but when masked.
“For lunch, you’re removing your mask and then you have to eat, so you have to be six feet apart,” Walker said. “And of course, we’re trying to think outside the box and how we can get as many students in the classroom as often as possible and as safely as possible.”
The bill does have verbiage referring to schools using mitigation strategies that are feasible.
SB 1303 reads in part:
The bill requires each school board to provide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For a link to the bill, click here.